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Converting Hotels for the Homeless

 In June 2021, the NYS Legislature passed a bill with a $100 million price tag that would permit hotel owners to convert their closed hotels to low income housing for the homeless. It is almost a year later and not one conversion has taken place.

Housing advocates celebrated when the state legislature passed the bill. But the state legislature was only half done. The legislators needed to get rid of the needless regulations so that the closed hotels could become residences. Nothing has happened.

There are two classes of hotels - those in commercial zoning and not in residential zoning so that it is not possible to convert these hotels without a zoning change. A simple fix is to suspend zoning for any hotel in a commercial zone. Such a fix has not happened. Another class of hotels are those already in residential zoning but need to come up to code. A simple fix is to suspend the code. There are almost 50,000 homeless people in the city of New York. Does it really matter if the doorways are not the right size? Does it matter if some of the rooms don't have the right floor space?  If state officials would treat the staggering homeless population as an emergency, perhaps we could get some hotel conversions.

Policy wonks claimed that Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio were to blame because they did not support the conversions. We have a new mayor and a new governor and they both support hotel conversions. State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz have a bill to make the changes needed. The legislators have to finish their job now.

Sam Mellins in New York Focus  pointed out that California has created 6,000 units out of converted hotels. And California simply exempted the hotels from zoning regulations. We need to get this done. And then perhaps the new governor and the new mayor could provide the city with a lot more than $100 million to convert these hotels.